Hull to Iceland and Back at the Humber Mouth Festival
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 at 11:33
from a review by Kerry Evans on her City of Culture blog:
VOYAGE TO CELEBRATE TWIN STATUES
October 8, 2017
Wednesday at the Central Library did not disappoint. With barely time for a coffee after meeting Melvyn Bragg I found myself with red wine in hand chatting to different kinds of people from wide areas of the UK all here in the Food for Thought café for a writhing sea of art, poetry and music to follow. First we were visually informed by local artist Cliff Forshaw’s Hull Cityscapes where I was joined in conversation by a Town Planner from Richmond, London, who was at City of Culture to attend a maritime convention which amongst other things would forge links between Shetland and Hull. Something that interests me as I lived on Shetland and am writing a book about the links between the whaling ships and Hull and the Greenland fishing grounds in the 1800’s, The Hanged Man of Grobsness.
Cliff stood in front of his paintings in the cafe describing some of the views. Throughout the week I have interviewed people as they sat and ate surrounded by his work, asking volunteers, the retired, people from all walks of life what they thought. Over the week I came to realise how much it meant to local people that the history of Hull’s landscape was being recorded by someone locally rooted with such accuracy. The colours are both bold and smoky and give the feel of a working, steam smoking maritime centre with the blades at Siemens beckoning future prosperity in one piece for a city once reliant on whaling and fishing for survival. You can contact Cliff on his website if you want a piece of history hanging on your wall.
There was a large gathering who followed Cliff and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais into the room next door where our eyes and ears were nourished with a slick and well synchronised performance. The music was put together by composer Deborah Pritchard’s and entitled Voyage, which celebrates the twin “voyage” statues, one pointing to Vik on Iceland near The Deep in Hull and the other towards Hull in Vik. The audience travelled with them. Artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir captured the essence of the sea, grey and for ever in motion, by leaning the statues forwards as if the communities in Iceland and the Humber are reaching out to each other. Cliff is working on a piece at the minute which reinforces links between Hull and other fishing communities.
This evening we were treated to a slick and well synchronised performance by Simon and Cliff. I have reviewed CD’s of poetry in performance for national magazines, some of which can be outlandish and irrelevant, but Cliff spoke of mermaid statues, whales and maritime themes close to my own heart as I have carried out extensive research on whalers like the Truelove for my whaling book. His words were interlaced with relevant language which hit you like a bullet. You can tell he is a well-travelled man there was a piece packed with Tasmanian words which rolled off the tongue. I loved the way Simon would lower his trumpet and look towards Cliff to interchange music with words. It created an eerie atmosphere. One of peace before the storm. The lights were lowered and purple reflected off the trumpet as the haunting, slowly delivered notes swam to our ears. I did feel like I was in Shetland looking out to sea wading in snow again. It also made me want to read more of Cliff’s poetry. The collaboration worked.
Later in conversation Cliff told me the exhibition could be moving to the St Stephen’s precinct. Details are still to be finalised. Carrying the legacy of 2017 on.
HUMBERMOUTH LITERATURE FESTIVAL EXHIBITION OF CLIFF'S HULL CITYSCAPES AND PERFORMANCE OF VOYAGE
Saturday, 30 September 2017 at 09:59
HULL TO ICELAND AND BACK: A VOYAGE IN MUSIC, POETRY AND PAINT
A Humber Mouth Literature Festival Commission 2017
Wednesday 4 October HULL CENTRAL LIBRARY,
Albion Street Hull HU1 3TF
6pm Drinks and Launch of Exhibition of Cliff Forshaw’s Hull Cityscapes,
Food for Thought Café, Hull Central Library
7pm Performance of Voyage for Solo Trumpet.
Poet and painter Cliff Forshaw has collaborated with the synaesthetic composer Deborah Pritchard and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais to celebrate the twin “Voyage” statues created by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir in Hull and Iceland.
The world premiere of VOYAGE FOR SOLO TRUMPET took place during John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux: Sounds from Smoky Bay, as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. The piece continues to develop and Deborah, Simon and Cliff have since performed it at Vik in Iceland.
The exhibition of ten of Cliff's large Hull Cityscape paintings in the Cebntral Library Café will continue until 14 October 2017.
Voyage performed in Vik
Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 16:18
Cliff's collaboration with the composer Deborah Pritchard and the trumpeter Simon Desbruslais was performed in Vik, Iceland, on Sunday 13 August.
Cliff read his poems and Simon played the new extended version of Deborah's composition Voyage for Solo Trumpet under Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir's Voyage statue, in front of an audience which included the Mayor of Vik and the British Ambassador to Iceland.
The statue is the sister version of the one in Hull, where they performed on May Bank Holiday as part of the John Grant Atlantic Flux Festival.
Many thanks to the Mayor and people of Vik, and to Steinunn and her husband Jon, for their generous support and excellent hospitality.
Here are Cliff, Deborah, Steinunn and Simon under the Voyage statue in Vik.
Voyage to Iceland
Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 15:28
There will be another performance of Voyage at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull on 8 October, to coincide with the launch of Cliff's exhibition of Hull cityscape paintings at the Brook Street Gallery. The collaboration continues to grow, with new sections composed by Deborah, accompanied by new poems on the maritime themes and connections between Hull and Iceland. The plan is to record the completed work towards the end of the year.
Brook Street Gallery Exhibition
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 19:38
End-of-Year exhibition at Brook Street Gallery
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 20:02
Our End-of-Year Show continues at Brook Street Gallery, Prospect Shopping Centre, Hull HU2 8PP. The gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 1- 5 pm. Here's my most recent cityscape, a view over the Deep, the River Hull and out across the Humber. It's one of several of my cityscape paintings in the show along with lots of other good work by my colleagues.
Voyage for Solo Trumpet
Monday, 15 May 2017 at 19:52
Some poems from our performance of Voyage for Solo Trumpet with composer Deborah Pritchard and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais.
The sequence starts with Hull and its maritime history and uses some of the poems in Pilgrim Tongues to complement "Neap", the poem I originally wrote to celebrate the Voyage statue. The composer Deborah Pritchard wanted the piece to end with the twin Voyage statue in Vik, Iceland. I added a poem from Trans "From the Anglo-Saxon" to give a sense of northern seafaring, and then wrote "Vik Triptych" to conclude.
From the Anglo-Saxon
The ceaseless seas.
Now, truth to tell, that old long song’s a solo
competing with the shriek of gulls, the curlew’s cry.
It tongues those primal etymologies
which discover travail in travel, destiny in stone.
It polishes the lapidary eye
to the challenge of a ring banded by horizon,
reckons ceaseless seas to put woman on the moon.
Word-beat and sea-slap.
Well, there’s always one grizzling at the prow’s rib,
wretched, retching, outwearing wood,
as the back-beat of it all slaps ankles and planking.
That that’s just word-salt, sea-slop,
heart’s bilge is well understood
– but is there another, whose watch is endless, uneasy,
whose nest lurches through the dark high heavens?
Mast-creak and sail-crack.
One whose eyes are worn blue,
sharpened thin on the horizon’s whetstone?
Ignore the forlorn bittern, the stormy petrel broken in the rigging.
Take in your stride the rolls and groans
and juddering whale-backed blackness.
Slip reefs around your weird of knotty fate,
beware sea-chests shifting across the deck’s salt-licked slate.
God-fear in exile.
One thing must break or rip or blunt another,
untangle in wind or be cut through.
This game of life is paper, scissors, stone.
The glint of surf betrays the reef,
iron caroms through woodrot, leaves canvas and skin unsewn.
When he has weathered much, grown wise in winters,
a man must fathom his own life, its weirdness;
reckon keel space; know the whale’s cold road,
ocean-paths, the glittering magnetic shoal,
the drag of his barnacled soul.
Too tedious to recount all this at length,
too late to sing the long song now, simply say:
God Gave man a soul because He trusts in his strength
…because he trusts in His strength.
With salt in their sea-cloaks, nosed out, west
into the sun’s sinking, whet of wind in the shrouds,
led by lodestone, dead reckoning, or those wild
constellations ghosting shoals in the cold high dark.
Past sea-pig, islands ever sea-girt with sadness,
the heart’s reefs where some shipwrecked to mermaids, their Circes,
heard seaweed voices twine round thole pins, minds
seafogged, brilliant and blind. Shortwave: the charts’ braille
bouncing off the sky. A smokestack’s distant belch;
foghorn saxophony jazzing the engine-room’s huge rhythm-section.
All thrumming back-beat in a big wounded bellow of steel,
sonar pinging high beyond Beaufort’s twelve-note scale.
Still the hawser’s anguish, the squeal of rubber, judder:
the joy as we step down wet ribbed wood
and our seaboots trap this harbour’s spinning ball.
What washes up along the strand:
nets, pots, crab-claws, plastic, tin, glass, wood,
things long lost, salt-bleached and found
by fulmar, stormy petrel; sea-wrack and wreckage
from ships that broke on rocks, or ran aground,
little funerary mounds rising from the sand.
And now, above black basalt, jetsam, this tall bronze.
Is there some hard shadow to this weathered skipper?
Sister perhaps, herself a waiting bride
who daily scanned that hazy band where sea and sky
may hide her returning man, deckhand, her true first mate,
or leave her still, virgin widow, unmanned help-meet
hanging on to the idea of one wholesome hull,
faithful and stubborn as limpet, barnacle?
It stands worn thin by wind:
strong as hunger, angled to get the hang
of coming calm or brewing storm.
By weird and wind, cuts like a prow
into what will befall us all.
Leave all in your wake; then rudder, tack.
Lord save our souls when waves
drop deep beneath us, fast as a running grave.
Forever peering out, through all the bells, alone,
all is worn down to green bronze bone;
on watch, for further and further land,
for what’s still beyond all that sea,
beyond the breakers on the other side,
that mirror image of shifting black volcanic sand.
Voyage for Solo Trumpet, premiere 1 May 2017
Tuesday, 2 May 2017 at 20:31
The premiere of Voyage: the collaboration with the composer Deborah Pritchard and the trumpeter Simon Desbruslais went really well yesterday. Luckily the weather held, and it was sunny, if a litttle fresh as the breeze came up the Humber and played aound the Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir statue.
There was a good audience as it linked into John Grant's North Icelandic Flux music festival, with bands from Iceland. The performance was streamed lived on the Hull City of Culture website.
Here's a Facebook clip with Simon playing and Mary Aherne and me reading poems from my sequence: